Last week I wrote about worship as waiting on God. As we have been reading the Gospel of Luke aloud in the common places of our life (you have signed up for 100 Days of Worship in the Common Places…right?), it’s hard not to notice that pretty much all of the spiritual heroes presented therein (spoiler alert: They are virtually undetectable according to all known modern methods of hero detection) are those who are resolutely, unbendingly, unyieldingly, stubbornly, irrationally, immovably—waiting on God. Without the slightest trace of fear of being left behind, wasting their lives, missing the boat, or God going on ahead to do the thing he promised in Scripture without them.
The most arresting figure to me as I read Luke 2 this year is Anna. Anna can’t have been arresting to too many people, since Luke’s description of her in Luke 2:36-37 goes like this:
There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.
Anna’s autobiography would not have won any Pulitzers, that’s for sure. My Forty Years of Praying in the Temple: How I Learned to Love the Smell of Animal Sacrifice.
But Anna merits a comparatively lengthy and detailed mention in, you know, the most widely read book in human history. Why? Because God is apparently quite impressed with anyone willing to spend their life waiting on him to do what he said he was going to do.
This is the weakness in the old joke about the guy who climbs onto his roof during a flood and prays that God will rescue him, and then he ends up drowning after refusing rescue from people in a boat and then a train and then a plane and then an automobile or something like that, and then when he goes to heaven he lets God have it and accuses him of failing to rescue him, and then God reprimands him by saying, “Hey, I sent you a plane and a train and an automobile.” The weakness of the joke is that heaven really doesn’t just send help through other people. Heaven comes in person. It is worth waiting beyond the plane, the train, and the automobile for God himself.
In Jesus’ day (and of course in every day before and since), human beings have appointed themselves God’s agents in human history. They christen themselves as heaven-sent planes, trains, and automobiles. So that’s how in Luke you get the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Herodeans, and Zealots, and every other group of self-proclaimed divine planes, trains, and automobiles carrying out the will of God.
And then you have Anna. Like the man in the old joke, she climbed up on the roof in the midst of the flood of history and waved off the plane, the train, and the automobile and waited for God.
And rather than rebuking her for not honoring these self-appointed divine delegates, God was so honored by her waiting that he honored her for her waiting by letting her see him in human flesh with her very own eyes.
Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
This may all sound a bit puzzling from the guy whose blog is called Doers Of The Word. Rest assured: It does puzzle me still from time to time. But this is what I know so far:
Doing the Word doesn’t ever mean acting in place of God. And it doesn’t mean acting as a divinely appointed surrogate for God. Instead, it means pointing to God—serving as a neon arrow that flashes in both word and deed, “Look! Look! Look! God is being faithful to his word! God will be faithful to his word! That is the only possible explanation for why you see me doing what I’m doing, because you may notice that it is causing me to be ridiculed, persecuted, and/or killed.”
That is what it means to do the word.
But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
Anna’s worship of waiting on God lasted forty years. How about joining us in practicing toward that with a worshipful waiting on God for one hundred days? Click here for more information on participating today in One Hundred Days of Worship in the Common Places with the North Korean Underground Church.